But the fruit of the Spirit — the result of God’s presence within us — is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Years earlier, Socrates simmered these Biblical virtues into one: knowledge.
Virtue is knowledge; vice is lack of knowledge.
In 1983 we had a president who became wildly popular by reversing Socrates and mocking gentleness patience and self-control, even as he invoked the Bible.
Ignorance became virtuous; the pursuit of human excellence through knowledge became “high-minded liberalism” — knowledge became a vice.
Reagan, too, had played the part of a large-and-in-charge uber-macho male on TV, always gloriously victorious over bad hombres just before credits rolled. He, too, had difficulty discerning differences between simple scripted fantasy and complex unpredictable reality.
From the safety of the sea where he could lob a message-sending volley of missiles on a Shia stronghold with no concern for retaliation, he too, gave a tough-talk order, much to the fawning praise and utter delight of his followers, without a deliberative weighing of consequences.
The civil war in Lebanon was complex. It didn’t fit the simplistic “good vs. evil” paradigm that forms the foundation of the conservative worldview. There were Shia Muslims, Sunni Muslims, Druze Muslims, Armenian Christians, Greek Orthodox Christians. Israel was involved, Iran was involved. Syria was involved. There were Shia guerillas who had not yet coalesced into the Hezbollah terrorist organization. And the bloodiest terrorists of all — the Maronite Christians.
Reagan was correct in his brash assessment of his shot-from-the-hip rain of missiles — we were too far out into the Mediterranean on that September evening for any retaliatory action to be inflicted against our ship.
It was a brilliant one-off show of power that sent a message to the world that the US is not a push-over; no more Carter namby-pamby diplomacy; no more pansy pleas; no more coddling correctness.
Take notice, world. There’s a new sheriff in town.
With the world conquered, Reagan went a-golfing.
Down here in Georgia at the Augusta National Golf Club, home of The Masters.
After turning-in on Friday evening, Reagan was awakened at 3:00 a.m. on Saturday, October 22, 1983 by Secretary of State George Schultz and National Security Advisor Robert McFarland for an impromptu meeting in a makeshift situation room in the Eisenhower Cabin where they were staying at the resort.
The subject of discussion was an urgent plea from Organization of East Caribbean States asking for military support in Grenada.
Reagan approved it.
After all, he had just shown the world how powerful and effective he was in Lebanon; how he had ended the malaise and indecision and timidity of Jimmy Carter.
Message-sending macho shows-of-force was the new order.
The Marines asleep in their barracks in Lebanon were the furthest thing from his mind.
Eight hours later — 11:20 a.m. on Saturday in Augusta, 6:20 a.m. on Sunday in Beirut — a lone Shia terrorist driving a 19-ton yellow Mercedes-Benz truck hauling 6 tons of explosives entered the compound that housed the US Marine barracks. He circled the outer parking lot twice, drove through the coils of razor wire into the inner parking lot, across the lot through an open gate, directly through a small guard house, into the lobby of the barracks.
Three soldiers, 18 sailors and 220 Marines cashed the check carelessly written on Reagan’s knowledge-free account.
Two days later, Reagan proceeded with the hastily-planned invasion of Grenada.
But even in his distraction, he failed to appreciate nuances that would have been readily provided by knowledge.
Margret Thatcher was livid.
Although Grenada had obtained its independence from the UK ten years earlier, Prime Minister Thatcher still considered it to be within Britain’s sphere of influence and felt she should have been in the loop prior to the invasion.
The next day, he was on the phone meekly apologizing to Prime Minister Thatcher:
“If I were there, Margaret, I would throw my hat in the door before I came in. We regret very much the embarrassment caused you, and I would like to tell you what the story is from our end. I was awakened at 3:00 in the morning, supposedly on a golfing vacation down in Georgia. The Secretary of State was there. We met in pajamas out in the living room of our suite because of this urgent appeal from the Organization of East Caribbean States pleading with us to support them in Grenada. … When word came of your concerns — by the time I got it — the zero hour had passed, and our forces were on their way. … But I want you to know it was no feeling on our part of lack of confidence at your end. It’s at our end.” ~ Reagan, phone call to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, October 26, 1983
And the mangled bodies of 241 American service-persons still lay beneath the rubble 6,000 miles away in Beirut.
These are Sunni Muslims:
- 9/11 Hijackers
- Osama bin Laden
- Saddam Hussein
- Iraq (before Bush invasion)
- Saudi Arabia
- almost all Arab countries except Syria
- Underwear bomber
- Shoe bomber
- Fort Hood shooter
- Orlando shooter
- San Bernardino shooters
- ISIS Syrians
- Al-Qaeda Syrians
These are Shia Muslims:
- Iraq (after Bush invasion)
- Syrian government (Assad)
These are two trains that will never meet.
They are mortal enemies.
Have been since the Sunni’s killed the Prophet Mohammad’s grandson 1,337 years ago at the Battle of Karbala in the year 680.
Bush forsook knowledge and reveled in ignorance.
Iran is the only major country on the face of the earth that is virtually 100% Shia.
Next-door Iraq was 70% Shia, 20% Sunni, 10% Kurd.
Who did Bush think would be elected if he deposed the Sunni dictator and forced a democratic election in a 70% Shia country that was next door to a 100% Shia country?
But that’s the problem.
He didn’t think.
He wasn’t interested in details or nuances. In his mind, it was all a simple “good vs. evil.”
We were going to “win.”
Whether it was a good idea to double the size and reach and power and influence of Iran, may be debatable.
But that’s what Bush did.
He just had no idea he was doing it.
Trump is helping ISIS.
That’s not hyperbole. It’s not an exaggeration.
It’s a fact.
He’s doing it out of ignorance.
And he’s being cheered out of that same ignorance.
That same shunning of knowledge and disdain for complexities and affection for simplicities that fuels masculine movements and rewards cowboy diplomacy and callous displays of force.
That same ignorance that resulted in Reagan’s debacle in Beirut and Bush’s disaster in Iraq.
President Obama knew the pitfalls of getting bogged down in a civil war.
He understood force begets force; actions have consequences.
When Assad gassed 1,400 of his people on President Obama’s watch, within 30 days President Obama had an international agreement to destroy all of Assad’s chemical weapons, with Putin standing as the personal guarantor to make certain that the weapons he had supplied to Assad in the first place, were completely destroyed.
A new comparatively-small gassing incident more than three years later doesn’t negate the effectiveness of what President Obama accomplished. Putin could have intentionally allowed Assad to retain some of his chemical weapons (not likely because that would make Putin look less in control); Putin could have supplied Assad with new chemical weapons (not likely for the same reason); or, it could be as Putin and Assad say…a small stockpile of chemical weapons owned by al-Qaeda and stored in the ISIS-controlled city which Assad bombed. The relatively small scale of the gassing makes secondary ground-release more plausible.
President Obama relentlessly bombed ISIS inside Iraq, with the permission and at the invitation of the Iran-controlled Shia government; and, just as relentlessly, bombed ISIS and al-Qaeda in Syria, in spite of Assad specifically forbidding any US involvement within the sovereign territory of Syria.
He effectively contained ISIS to a defined area and totally obliterated their ability to travel into other countries or expand their reach. Conservatives mocked him and laughed at him for saying that, but all events that happened in America or elsewhere afterwards, were committed by individuals from other countries, simply pledging allegiance to ISIS — they were not dispatched by ISIS or trained by ISIS or controlled by ISIS.
But in all of that, President Obama was careful not to directly attack the Assad regime. We were engaged in a fight against ISIS and al-Qaeda. On that point, our interests and Assad’s interests converged. We also knew Assad was a brutal dictator indiscriminately killing his own people. On that point, we abhorred him. But we couldn’t take both sides in a civil war, as Trump is now doing by continuing President Obama’s attacks against al-Qaeda and ISIS, while opening a new front against Assad.
Anything done militarily against Assad, effectively helps ISIS.
They are two different trains. They will never meet. Hurting one, helps the other.
Despite the complexities, President Obama’s strategy was clear. He kept up a two-year steady consistent bombing campaign to keep ISIS contained to a small area and to constantly obliterate newly-obtained vehicles and weapons. Simultaneously, he worked behind the scenes searching for a diplomatic solution that would allow Assad to leave the country and be replaced by a vetted coalitional government.
And even in that, conservatives falsely accused him of “helping the people who flew planes into our buildings,” because he was seeking the diplomatic removal of Assad.
Now they’re cheering Trump as he launches military action against Assad, militarily taking the side of ISIS.
No, President Obama’s strategy was not nearly as fun or entertaining or ratings-grabbing as the crotch-scratching lugi-spitting noxious belch of toxic masculinity that is released with a hail of bombs raining from the night sky.
But it kept us safe. It didn’t result in retaliation or indiscriminate killing of unarmed innocents or helmets on the butt end of a rifle stuffed in empty bloody boots.
Because President Obama was virtuous.
He was tough; resolute; no-nonsense — he contained ISIS, dispatched bin Laden to the depths of Hell and brought Russia to its knees with crippling sanctions.
But he was patient.
He looked for peace.
With goodness and kindness and gentleness and self-control.
All of which are condemned by conservative Christians who demand the instant gratification of indiscriminate retaliation against anyone in sight, mocking enlightening knowledge and shunning deliberative thought.
But President Obama sought knowledge and governed with patience.
He was virtuous.